Creativity Magazine

It' s Worth Thinking About

By Vickilane
It' s Worth Thinking About

I recently received an email from a friend re the controversial Dr. Seuss books, wondering how I felt about removing/banning some of his books. She said: I think it’s the same as Book Burning!  use the examples as a teaching moment from the times they came from.  Most all his books were read to me and I don’t think they turned me in to a racist or white supremist!

Well, first of all, it's not actually banning. It’s the people who own the copyrights  and the publishers who are choosing not to print the specific books.  Dr. Seuss has a left a fine legacy of great, socially aware stuff--most especially The Lorax and I can imagine that he, or in this case, his estate, would rather not tarnish his memory with ethnic stereotypes, innocent though they seemed at the time.

But it’s a question I’m pondering as I read stuff to Josie. Some of my favorites from childhood are incredibly racist by today's standards. William Green Hill on the Old Plantation comes to mind.  Yes, there can be teaching moments though how much a three-year old will absorb of that and still enjoy the story, I don’t know. 

Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer, Seventeen, the list is endless. In all of these Black people are portrayed as charming but gullible and laughable, at best.  Grow up reading these, as I did, and these attitudes help one accept things like segregation and the fact that my grandmother kept a separate set of dishes and eating utensils for her Black maid, and my grandfather insisted on starting the lawnmower for Fred, a Black teacher with a MA, who mowed lawns on Saturdays and donated his earnings to his church.

Like my friend, I don't consider myself a racist or a White Supremacist. But I'm embarrassed that I ever accepted things as they were in the South of the Fifties.  

I think a good standard to apply is, If I were reading this  to a child of the ethnicity being portrayed/caricatured, would I feel uncomfortable? If the answer is yes, probably time to retire this work—which was written when WASP was the default mode for most readers.

Retire, not ban. 


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